Inventor of THX sound system hired to run Apple audio - report

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple has reportedly hired Tomlinson Holman, inventor of the Lucasfilm THX high-fidelity audio system, to be its new audio chief.



Leo Laporte of the TWiT Netcast Network wrote on his official Twitter account on Monday that Holman is joining Apple to "run audio." The post, highlighted by GigaOm, described Apple's hire as a "major upgrade."



In addition to creating the THX sound certification for Lucasfilm, Holman was also behind the world's first 10.2 surround sound system. He is currently a film sound professor at the University of Southern California.



Apple has not confirmed the alleged hiring of Holman, and what projects he will play a role in at the secretive company are not yet known. In addition to experience designing loudspeakers and amplifiers, he has also won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement in motion pictures.



Holman's hiring could also play a role in hardware development, ranging from the headphones that ship with all iPods and iPhones, to integrated speakers on devices like the iPhone, iPad or Apple's line of MacBook computers. He could also play a part in the software Apple writes for media playback on devices ranging from iPods and iPhones, to Macs, the Apple TV.







In February, it was alleged that Apple is looking to offer higher quality music on its iTunes Music Store. The company is said to be in negotiations with studios to offer tracks in a 24-bit high-fidelity format, which would be higher quality than the 16 bit currently available on iTunes or with a compact disc.



Many Macs and some PCs already support 24-bit sound, and the iTunes media player software supports 24-bit files. Audio tracks are also recorded in 24 bits by artists in the studio, but they are downgraded to 16 bits when they are pressed to CD or made available to iTunes.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 67
    macrrmacrr Posts: 488member
    m000000!
  • Reply 2 of 67
    frugalityfrugality Posts: 410member
    Awesome. Been looking foreward to better audio solutions from Apple.



    I'm running a Logitech Squeezebox and love it. I've heard Sonos is good, too. I think Apple dropped the ball in not entering that market -- meaning, something with a halfway decent DAC for stereo and home theater use.



    EDIT:

    Come to think of it......given the quality of music the almighty Steve listens to and uses for his product launches.....I can see why good audio performance hasn't been a priority!
  • Reply 3 of 67
    taniatania Posts: 63member
    This is what I like about Apple. They know what they're doing. They know who to get. And they don't gloat or boast about it as much that we have to find this kind detail through rumor sites.
  • Reply 4 of 67
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,116member
    24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.
  • Reply 5 of 67
    sprockketssprockkets Posts: 796member
    THX is all about a pleasant listening experience at the theater or certifying hardware actually does what it is supposed to do. Whether or not this means better audio in apple products remains to be seen. Their ipods don't suffer hardware quality issues; it's all in their poor eq's. Change the eq and the sound turns to crap.



    10.2 surround? I stopped caring at 5.1.
  • Reply 6 of 67
    xsuxsu Posts: 401member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tipoo View Post


    24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.



    You never know, maybe that will be the lead feature of the next gen iPod
  • Reply 7 of 67
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tipoo View Post


    24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.



    You don't hire Tomlinson Holman to enable "marketing gimmickry." He's a supremely talented hardware/software/audio guy, one of the best in the business. Honestly, they couldn't have gotten a more seminal talent if they had hired Ray Dolby himself.



    I'm excited by this news-- audio quality doesn't seem to have been a high priority with Apple as of late, having defaulted to "good enough" for their various portable devices. A big upgrade across the board on that count, from iTunes encodes to iPod ear buds to the speakers and amplification in the iphones, iPad and laptops would be most welcome.
  • Reply 8 of 67
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,023member
    If this is true, it's a big step. I know this guy, and he's brilliant. For those who think that THX is not such a big deal, you're wrong. It's one of the biggest of big deals. It's focussed on theater and home theater sound, and it's not intended for the purpose of pure music reproduction, though the standards set there will work well, if you have THX certified equipment, and you set it up properly.



    But he's not just "Mr. THX". His knowledge of music and audio reproduction goes well beyond that. I hope this rumor is true.
  • Reply 9 of 67
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,116member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by xsu View Post


    You never know, maybe that will be the lead feature of the next gen iPod



    They could always surprise us I guess. But I just don't think they are giving as much attention to iPods in the area of audio ironically enough. 24 bit files + their current fidelity = zero gain. CD quality is 16 bit, think about how much high end equipment you need to hear a difference between that and SACD. In an iPod? I can't see it making any difference apart from a marketing point.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    You don't hire Tomlinson Holman to enable "marketing gimmickry." He's a supremely talented hardware/software/audio guy, one of the best in the business.



    Which isn't what I said, I was talking about 24-bit audio files.
  • Reply 10 of 67
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,023member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by frugality View Post


    Awesome. Been looking foreward to better audio solutions from Apple.



    I'm running a Logitech Squeezebox and love it. I've heard Sonos is good, too. I think Apple dropped the ball in not entering that market -- meaning, something with a halfway decent DAC for stereo and home theater use.



    EDIT:

    Come to think of it......given the quality of music the almighty Steve listens to and uses for his product launches.....I can see why good audio performance hasn't been a priority!



    You don't know much about it, do you?
  • Reply 11 of 67
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post


    THX is all about a pleasant listening experience at the theater or certifying hardware actually does what it is supposed to do. Whether or not this means better audio in apple products remains to be seen. Their ipods don't suffer hardware quality issues; it's all in their poor eq's. Change the eq and the sound turns to crap.



    10.2 surround? I stopped caring at 5.1.



    But THX is enabled by a great deal of top notch engineering, equalization and system quality control. To ask if this will lead better audio in Apple products is a tad moronic, with all due respect.



    Did you expect the man to arrive at Apple and go "Oh, wait, iPods? I only know how to do surround sound in theaters, sorry, I guess I'll quit."
  • Reply 12 of 67
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,023member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tipoo View Post


    24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.



    I can't wait for FLAC to die, which it will. The problem with FLAC, like other containers for music and video, such as OGG, is that they're patent encumbered. Some day, they will be sued out of existence. This is why companies such as Apple and Microsoft can't use them, and must come up with their own standards. Companies that aren't primary suppliers of software such as Apple and Microsoft don't have this problem. Basically, they don't care if FLAC goes away. But Apple and MS embed this software deep into their own OS and playback software and, in Apple's case, hardware. If FLAC went away, it would be a major problem.



    The industry is working on a standard for this, but if and when it will come about, I don't know.
  • Reply 13 of 67
    Not sure what all the fuss is about. Apple's audio quality on their mobile devices is just fine. It's better than the 8-track we had in our car when I was a kid, it's better than the cassette Walkmans I owned in the 80s. I guess I'm just not an audiophile like so many folks these days. I love music, but honestly, I just don't care if your subwoofer cost $700 and was made by some Swiss company with an unpronounceable name. Some of my favorite bands recorded some great music on the lowest of lo-fi equipment - so how are you going to improve that? And more importantly, would you even want to?
  • Reply 14 of 67
    sprockketssprockkets Posts: 796member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    But THX is enabled by a great deal of top notch engineering, equalization and system quality control. To ask if this will lead better audio in Apple products is a tad moronic, with all due respect.



    Did you expect the man to arrive at Apple and go "Oh, wait, iPods? I only know how to do surround sound in theaters, sorry, I guess I'll quit."



    Can you show me THX equipment that is sold directly from them?



    Again, the problem with sound quality isn't so much the hardware; it's their software.



    Currently those who care about sound quality in a music device get a Cowon anyhow.
  • Reply 15 of 67
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,023member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post


    Can you show me THX equipment that is sold directly from them?



    Again, the problem with sound quality isn't so much the hardware; it's their software.



    Currently those who care about sound quality in a music device get a Cowon anyhow.



    That's a joke.
  • Reply 16 of 67
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member
    Audio for the (real) Apple TV. It'll have one speaker that miraculously pumps out 10.2 surround and full lows, mids, and highs. The frequency response will be 12 - 23,000kHz, 0.003% THD, and use class A amplifiers. The speakers measures 2.5" in diameter.
  • Reply 17 of 67
    sprockketssprockkets Posts: 796member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    I can't wait for FLAC to die, which it will. The problem with FLAC, like other containers for music and video, such as OGG, is that they're patent encumbered. Some day, they will be sued out of existence. This is why companies such as Apple and Microsoft can't use them, and must come up with their own standards. Companies that aren't primary suppliers of software such as Apple and Microsoft don't have this problem. Basically, they don't care if FLAC goes away. But Apple and MS embed this software deep into their own OS and playback software and, in Apple's case, hardware. If FLAC went away, it would be a major problem.



    The industry is working on a standard for this, but if and when it will come about, I don't know.



    If that is the case, why not sue all the people who currently use ogg/vorbis like



    Epic

    Activision

    Wikipedia

    Blizzard

    Sandisk

    Google (who is already being looked at with webm)



    and others who currently use FLAC in 24 bit to sell music.



    Vorbis is already BSD and has been around for 10+ years, and even predates aac in the early development stages, back all they way to 1993.



    The reason why at this point Apple won't use it is just because they are apple. Microsoft never touched it because it didn't make WMA look good.
  • Reply 18 of 67
    sprockketssprockkets Posts: 796member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    That's a joke.



    Put up or shut up.
  • Reply 19 of 67
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post


    Can you show me THX equipment that is sold directly from them?



    Again, the problem with sound quality isn't so much the hardware; it's their software.



    Currently those who care about sound quality in a music device get a Cowon anyhow.



    Right, so they hired Holman just for the hell of it? Apple can't sort out where the shortcomings in audio quality are? Holman doesn't know software?



    THX certification is on any number of consumer audio and video devices, it's not just "equipment" but rather a set of standards and specs (including, yes, software). If Holman does nothing but apply THX type standards to Apple's audio efforts there will be a huge increase in quality across the board.



    I'm not even sure what you think you're arguing. Holman is a sound engineer, and a very good one. His hiring means that Apple intends for him to work improving sound. Again, he's not going to just stand their scratching his head because Apple isn't making cinema sound systems.



    Just as a point of interest, "THX" derives from "Tom Holman Crossover", that being the crossover he originally designed for Lucas to enable better theater sound.
  • Reply 20 of 67
    ecphorizerecphorizer Posts: 533member
    THX is a certification process, not a hardware filter or some other enhancing mechanism. THX certifies the models that builders of amps design, the certificate being that the model is certified to reproduce audio at a certain studio reference from the source (CD, DVD, whatever) through the preamp and amp to the speakers. Just flipping a switch that might say "THX" won't create studio sound from crap.



    It would be interesting to see a future iPod billed as "THX Certified."



    Also, maybe future high-performance Macs might produce the THX chord when turned on. Awesome!
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